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Challenges of Open Innovation

Posted 2 years ago

Challenges of Open Innovation

Open innovation often sounds like a panacea when it comes to finding new ideas or concepts but many organisations are left disillusioned by the process. Below are the ‘7 deadly sins’ that cause open innovation initiatives to fail.


  1. The wrong challenge/opportunity wording: To find ideas from people that are external to your organisation the challenge wording needs to be very clear. Often a poorly worded challenge is either not understood or it influences a certain type of submission. Does the wording describe the challenge or opportunity effectively? Does it take into account underlying challenges? Does it communicate assumptions effectively? If targeting contributors from other countries, does the wording take into account English as a second language and that different terms mean different things in different cultures? Crafting an effective challenge or opportunity statement takes time and an understanding of value within the organisation.
  2. No clear understanding of ‘value’: If your team can’t describe what a valuable idea or concept looks like then it is difficult for contributors that are not part of your organisation to ‘guess’ what is required. It is important that this understanding of value is backed up by criteria and a scoring system. A lot of people forget that a score of 10/10 against all criteria is defining what a perfect idea or concept looks like. This doesn’t guarantee that you will get perfect ideas from an open innovation process but understanding perfection helps to word the challenge and target contributors more effectively.
  3. Not involving evaluators early: The evaluators that you are going to use will also have their views on what value looks like and it is important that this is incorporated into the design of the challenge/opportunity statement and the evaluation criteria. By involving evaluators early in the process you also ensure their buy-in to the overall process – this is particularly important if you are using senior managers who will be responsible for sponsoring or supporting ideas through to deployment.
  4. No contributor persona’s: Great open innovation activities know who they are targeting for new ideas or concepts. A simple way to do this is to map out a few personas. This helps to develop clearer challenge/opportunity statements as well as helping with the communication strategy.
  5. Poor incentives to contribute: There are a range of reasons why someone external to your organisation would want to contribute their ideas. When developing personas, it is useful to consider what these motivations are, including prizes for winning ideas, opportunities to collaborate, opportunities to be involved in developing the idea etc.
  6. Wrong submission process: After you have spent the time getting an opportunity in front of someone then it is a question of how much information do you want to collect. This is often influenced by the incentive that is being provided, for example, if there is no incentive and the submission form takes 10 minutes to complete then there will be a large drop-off in responses. On the other hand, if $20k is up for grabs then a more comprehensive submission form may be appropriate. It is all about balance.
  7. No stage gate system: Getting ideas and conducting an initial assessment to select one or more is the first step. To get value from an open innovation activity your organisation needs to be able to deploy a product/service/process (assuming of course the ideas / concepts are valuable to the organisation). As such, before starting an open innovation activity it is important that you understand the process that you will take priority ideas through to achieve deployment.

Open innovation is a great way to get ideas or concepts from outside your organisation but the process needs to be well designed and managed. At Impact Innovation we have an open innovation process that solves these and other challenges – reach out if you would like to discuss.

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